Ohio Vets HOF to induct Valley WWII serviceman

By William K. Alcorn



World War II Navy veteran Robert H. Bertschy, who was wounded when his ship was torpedoed during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean, will be inducted Thursday into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony for the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Class of 2016 will take place at 11 a.m. at the Lincoln Theater in Columbus.

To be eligible for the hall, veterans must have honorably served in a branch of the military and have continued to serve their communities, state and nation after discharge.

Bertschy, 89, who also served during the Korean War, will attend the induction ceremony with his wife, Beryldene, and other area family members.

He has several daughters, Karen Bertschy of East Liverpool, Nila Bertschy of Cleveland, Lisa Carney of Canton (Janet Bertschy, died in infancy); a son, John Bertschy of East Liverpool; 13 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild. Two sisters, Marlene Shawke and Jane Barret, are both of Columbiana.

Bertschy, when told by telephone he had been selected for the OVHF, said “Thank you very much. I am very honored to be nominated and accepted,” according to his daughter, Karen.

Bertschy, who retired from Crucible Steel in Midland, Pa., drove school buses transporting handicapped children for the Columbiana Board of Education, and drove a truck for Pipelines Inc.

During WWII, Bertschy dropped out of East Liverpool High School at 17 to join the Navy shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

While serving as a radioman and gunner on the USS Gamble (DM 15), a destroyer/minelayer, he was injured by shrapnel in the upper right arm Feb. 18, 1945, when his ship was torpedoed.

After he recovered from his wound, the Purple Heart recipient’s Navy Reserve unit was activated in April 1951, and he served aboard the destroyer USS Noa (DD841) patrolling off the coast of Korea. He stayed in the Navy until 1955.

Bertschy has served his community and fellow veterans to an amazing degree, prompting the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center Voluntary Services to submit Bertschy for the Presidential Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received.

He has been an active member of the Disabled American Veterans since becoming a member in April 1947.

He is a life member of East Liverpool VFW Post 66 and was a member of its rifle drill team when it was Ohio champion from 1955 to 1959 and VFW National Rifle Drill Team champion in 1958-59. Bertschy has served on the Columbiana County Veterans Service Commission the past 29 years.

In January 2016, he was appointed DAV VA Voluntary Services Deputy-Representative for Cleveland VAMC. Bertschy is also a life member of DAV Commanders and Adjutants Association and DAV Trench Rats.

In 2002, at 75, Bertschy became a Department of Veterans Affairs volunteer van driver transporting Columbiana County veterans from the East Liverpool VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic to their VA medical appointments.

A part of the DAV National Transportation Network Program, he drove a DAV van to several VA facilities, including the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, Brecksville VAMC, and the Parma, Canton and Youngstown community-based outpatient clinics.

As a DAV volunteer driver, Bertschy logged more than 200,000 miles for the DAV Transportation Network Program and donated more than 10,000 VA-accredited hours devoted to VA Voluntary Services before retiring at 89.

Bertschy was also active in the Boy Scouts of America for 25 years, serving as a cub master, scoutmaster and director of Camp McKinley in Columbiana County from 1987 to 1989. He was recognized with many special adult scouting awards, including the Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor and the Silver Beaver.

In nominating Bertschy for the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, David May, past commander of the DAV Department of Ohio, described the honoree as a “one-in-a-thousand volunteer.”

May said Bertschy has been “a beacon of light, giving hope to many. He has a heart of gold and his dedicated hands have touched many lives throughout his life of volunteering. He has been making a difference for many years.”